Penalties of Drink Driving in Australia

October 25, 2022

Driving while intoxicated is a serious offence. Drink driving is also called driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). It involves operating any sort of vehicle—truck, car or motorcycle—with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05%-0.08%. This BAC level is deemed as ‘low range’ drink driving offence, whilst 0.08%-0.15% is considered a ‘mid-range’ offence, and 0.015 above is a ‘high range’ drink driving offence.   


Most states in Australia have low blood alcohol limits—often at 0.0 BAC—for professional, beginner and/or drivers under 26 years of age. This also applies to drivers who are previously disqualified and drivers of commercial passenger vehicles and heavy trucks. 


Offenders for drink driving will face a significant fine, temporary suspension of driver’s license and demerit points. For high-range offences, the penalties are long-term disqualification of a license, mandatory interlock device installation or even imprisonment. 


Driving Beyond the Limit 


You will be guilty of an offence if you drive or attempt to drive a vehicle while there is an exceeding ‘prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA)’ in your blood. Even if you didn’t feel drunk at that time or that your driving wasn’t affected in any way, you will still be convicted. The law is highly stern as to the alcohol level present in your blood when driving. 


As for drivers who are full licence holders, the highest level of blood alcohol allowable is 0.05. For probationary or provisional drivers, alcohol presence in the blood is a violation of licence conditions. Additionally, if the alcohol level outstrips 0.05, the violator will face charges of going beyond the prescribed alcohol concentration.  


Exceeding PCA While Driving With a Child 


If you have a blood alcohol level of 0.8 or above and you drive or attempt to drive while a child is in the vehicle (under 16 years old), you will be deserving of reproach or punishment. Penalties and a disqualification period will then apply. When your disqualification period ends, you will need to prove that you are not alcohol dependent before applying for a licence. 


Driving While Under the Influence (DUI) 


If you are so much under the influence of alcohol and are incapable of effectively controlling the vehicle, you will be guilty of an offence. The reason for such offence is you are considered to be incapable of effectively controlling a vehicle if both your mental and physical senses are significantly inebriated. 


In order for police officers to show that your control is ineffective (such as swaying when standing, breath has a strong alcohol smell and slurred speech), they may use their assessment and observation. Although not essential, a blood alcohol reading can also be used as evidence in this matter. 


This certain offence is not included to ‘exceed PCA’, but you may be charged with both offences, particularly if you are involved in an accident. Also, you will not be condemned guilty of both offences in relation to a similar incident. 




The court can enforce a minimum disqualification period or even longer if you are convicted of a drink driving offence. A loss of employment or personal adversity is not a ground for you to keep your licence. You can’t get a licence for work purposes or even a restricted licence; the disqualification is final. 


Furthermore, licence deduction points and a fine will apply. In the case of repeated or serious DUI offences, a magistrate has the full potential to enforce a prison term, although this is seldom. Below are the penalties for first offences. 


OffenceDisqualification (least)Demerit PointsFine 
PCA .05 – .0793 months4$600 reparation fee (prompt fine) or $1100
PCA .08 – .1496 months5$900 – $1300
PCA .15 +12 months6$1100 – $1600
DUI  with child present in vehicle12 months6$1100 – $1600
DUI (Driving Under the Influence)12 months6$1100 – $1600
PCA .08 – .149 with child (below 16)  in vehicle6 months5$900 – $1300
PCA .15 + with child (below 16) in vehicle12 months6$1100 – $1600
Refuse blood test12 months 6$1100 – $1600
Refuse breath test12 months 6$1100 – $1600


*If fine payment is made on a first offence, licence disqualification does not apply. Normally, a police officer issues an instant fine for the said offence. The court shall impose a 3-month disqualification granting the case goes to court. 


If you have a previous drink or drug driving conviction, higher penalties will apply. Expect also a higher penalty if you have a blood alcohol reading that is higher than the reading bracket. Drivers under provisional, learner or probationary shall face penalties for a breach of licence conditions. This is in addition to the penalties under the drink driving offence. 


How to Stay Safe and Legal While Driving

  • Take Your Time 


You can’t use special tricks to lower your blood alcohol concentration, and there’s not even a shortcut to recover from it. All you can do is wait and drive after your body has completely recovered from alcohol content and has enough time to process.

  • Don’t Bring Your Car 


You won’t have any chance of driving under the influence if you won’t take your car with you. Walking, carpooling or taking public transport can help you get to the place you need to be without driving your car and ensure you won’t drive home later on. 

  • Plan in Advance 


Know beforehand if you will stay the night, take a cab or be driven home. Avoid working out what you will do at the end of the night. In this way, you will know the logical option is to stick with your original plan even if you feel okay. 

  • If You Drive Exceeding The Limit, You Risk it All


If you drive beyond the legal limit, your insurance won’t cover you. Moreover, you won’t be covered for any damage you may cause if the health risks to yourself, as well as the public, are not sufficient.  


Defending Is What We Do 


Here at Mardini Defence Lawyers, we have a client-focused approach when it comes to legal practices, tailoring every defence to the needs of our clients. Feel free to contact us at (02) 8677 8292 for any legal defence concerns. Your first consultation is always free – we will outline the process, the law and the costs involved in defending you. 


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